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Are China’s 'little emperors' an economic drag?

by AirTalk®

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A mother and child walk in Shanghai. China's one-child policy has been in place since 1979. There's now a debate about whether the policy should be eased or dropped. Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images

Ever since China enacted its one-child policy, negative stereotypes have been used in association with the rise of the country’s “Little Emperors.” These only children are marked as being lazy, spoiled and prone to tantrums. While that may not sound so different from our perception of only children in the United States, there is different weight to China’s situation. One only child can be a handful, but what about a whole nation of them?

Now, it looks like a recent study from Monash University in Australia reinforces those popular presumptions with research. When comparing adults born after the one-child policy went into effect to those born before the rule, the younger adults display less altruism and a higher aversion to taking risks. They also shied away from competition in relation to their counterparts born before the policy, and displayed a higher degree of negativity. Researchers also drew connections between these characteristics and China’s future economic competitiveness. As those born after the one-child policy continue to enter the workforce, eventually they will be the predominant group.

What will it mean for an entire office to be comprised of only children? What if they’re risk averse? Will that negatively impact entrepreneurship? How does this apply to the United States? What’s your take on all this? Do you think the plight of the only child is simply myth, or is there validity to it?


Clayton Dube, Director of the USC U.S.-China Institute

Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D., co-author of "The Narcissism Epidemic," Professor of Psychol0gy at San Diego State University

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